A team of British military and police personnel arrived in Sierra Leone today to try to secure the release of five British soldiers among a group of hostages held by a rebel faction, the British Foreign Office said. The United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has called for the immediate release of the UN-led group taken hostage by supporters of a former military regime in Sierra Leone. Those being detained include UN military observers, West African peacekeepers, aid workers and journalists.

The group of about 40 had traveled to a remote village to collect 200 children who had been abducted during the recently ended civil war. Instead the group were taken hostage themselves. Two of them have since been released. They arrived back in the capital, Freetown, with a list of demands from the rebel soldiers, who say they were neglected under the peace deal that ended the war. They are calling for the release of their jailed leader and for supplies of food and medicines.